learn / 2015

Blind Childrens Center to strengthen new Social Skills Program with CREATIVE GROWTH CENTER

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Blind Children's Center

This year the Blind Children's Center launched a first-of-its-kind, 3-Year Social Skills Program to specifically address the socio-emotional needs of children who are blind or visually impaired. We aim to build a new Creative Growth Center, consisting of a new playhouse, upgraded lunch area and new sensory garden equipped with adaptive equipment, educational games, and engaging devices to support the development of critical social skills in our students who are blind or visually impaired.


In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles
  • Blind Children's Center; Hollywood; Los Angeles

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Conduct research
  • Engage residents and stakeholders
  • Implement a pilot or new project
  • Expand a pilot or a program
  • Build critical skills in children who are blind or visually impaired

How will your proposal improve the following “Learn” metrics?

  • Percentage of children enrolled in early education programs
  • Percent of community college students completing a certificate, degree, or transfer-related program in six years
  • Youth unemployment and underemployment
  • District-wide graduation rates
  • HS student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math
  • Academic Performance Index* scores
  • College matriculation rates
  • Student education pipeline (an integrated network of pre-schools, K-12 institutions, and higher education systems that prepares students for seamless transitions between high school, higher ed
  • Suspension and expulsion rates (Dream Metric)
  • Truancy rates in elementary and middle schools (Dream Metric)
  • Students perceived sense of safety at and on the way to school (Dream Metric)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to learn.

A good deal of research and concentration has gone into building best practices and curriculum for early childhood social skills curriculum. However, as a low incidence population, infants who are visually impaired have gone ignored as a group that needs its own dedicated curriculum to steer a healthy life from the earliest days.

Blind Children’s Center, as a model program and leader in the field, is launching a 3-year Social Skills Pilot Program, with the ultimate goal of producing a social skills curriculum specifically tailored for infants and young children who are blind or visually impaired, both within our four walls and beyond.

The 3-Year Pilot will culminate in the release of a “Social Skills Curriculum Kit” which will be made available to parents, educators and schools around the United States and throughout the world. The activities within the proposed Creative Growth Center will augment and solidify project results and help build strategy for future exploration in the area.

Just as academic adaptations need to be made for our students who are visually impaired (such as Brailling reading materials), we have found that social skills adaptations must be made, too. Research reveals that as much as 90% of what human beings learn is acquired through sight. Students who have limited or no vision must acquire skills and learn concepts through different methods — such as touch in the case of reading and writing using the Braille code.

Research has found that young people who are visually impaired show a disproportionate propensity toward teenage depression. Evidence indicates that youth may experience isolation due to lack of effective social skills to build healthy bonds and relationships with peers. At a very social time where cliques are forming and children can be exclusionary, young people who are visually impaired often feel left on the outside, without the ability to look in.

Best practices indicate that the early years are essential for establishing skills and learning readiness. As our program has long been based on full-inclusion, our school is a wonderful place to build the framework for a new curriculum which will allow children who are visually impaired to thrive in the sighted world all around them. It is our goal to continue to expand our presence in the community and make Los Angeles the very best place in the world for children who are blind or visually impaired to grow, learn and become happy, productive adults.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

Evaluation of the Program is the responsibility of the Center’s Director of Education and Family Services, Fernanda Armenta-Schmitt, Ph.D., who has been employed at the Center for 28 years. Dr. Armenta-Schmitt has extensive experience in the arena of early intervention and serving families of young children with significant disabilities, and has authored several publications dedicated to serving families with diverse backgrounds and needs.

She and the Center’s specialists and teachers collaborate to develop a Specialized Education Plan for each student and their family. The preschool children’s progress is measured annually using The Oregon Project which is the standard assessment tool for visually impaired children. The Kindergarten through 2nd Grade students receive regular report cards which are reviewed through standard K-2 curriculum guidelines. Parents’ progress is measured on a regular basis, through interviews and questionnaires.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support